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Hardcover Details
  • 08/2015
  • 978-0-9960260-0-0
  • 480 pages
  • $55

Adult; History & Military; (Publish)

A newly unearthed gem in American history, Rowdy by Christopher Madsen is, perhaps, one of the most highly awarded books of 2015. Rowdy is a 1920s adventure and love story that follows the colorful history of the famous 1916 racing yacht for which the book is titled. The tale, rediscovered and pieced back together by Madsen during his six year renovation of the yacht, centers on the life of the original owner, New York senator Holland Sackett Duell as he is immersed in The Great War, politics at the highest level, the birth of Hollywood, fortunes and mansions, love affairs as well as scandalous affairs and, of course, the thrill of illustrious New York Yacht Club sailing aboard his yacht Rowdy. Fully bringing to life the era and flair of Gatsby and Hemmingway, Rowdy, by contrast, is completely true, historically significant, and meticulously documented in support of the authenticity.

100 years after her launch, Rowdy (the yacht) is still making history. She is berthed in the Mediterranean and, in such playgrounds as Cannes and Monoco, she has won hundreds of races against the finest classic yachts in the world. As Sandman Yacht Company stated “this yacht has indeed dominated her class at the classic regattas making her probably the most successful classic race winner on the Mediterranean Circuit EVER.”

This elegant 8 ½ x 11 hard cover, accented with gold leaf stamping, blind deboss, a rounded spine with spine hubs (ribs) and a woven burgundy book mark ribbon, portrays the look and feel of worn, vintage leather; an enjoyable compliment to the old world feel in which the entire story is told. Not only is this a magnificent coffee table book, but the rich and timeless content within also render Rowdy a worthy and rare compliment to the classic section of any fine library.

Full list of awards, reviews, endorsements, photos etc. at .

REVIEW EXCERPTS: (Full text at

San Francisco Book Festival“Brimming with passion, definitively researched, and amazingly readable”

Foreword Reviews“an intriguing true story of love, war, politics, Hollywood, and wealth at its highest level.” FIVE STARS

Midwest Book Review“a strong recommendation for sailors and non-sailors alike.”

Good Old Boat – “a beautiful coffee table book and would be worthy to grace any personal or yacht club library.”

Eric Hoffer Book Award - “Rowdy is the meticulously researched story of an antique boat and the people associated with it.....a fascinating glimpse into the past.”

IndieReader Rowdy is an engrossing story of a unique racing yacht and the people who sailed her.”

Feathered Quill Book Reviews – “Rowdy is certainly a wonderful read. It’s interesting, wellwritten and provides a consistent stream of historical facts.”

Reader Views“a FIVE-STAR read for history and sailing lovers alike”

Readers’ FavoriteFIVE STAR. A gem of a book!”

New York Book Festival“A fine book that will be a proud addition to the collection of anyone.”


ENDORCEMENTS: (Full text at

Graham Walker - Former British America’s Cup Challenge chairman and Admiral’s Cup team captain

Rowdy is a fascinating, true life story that all should enjoy.”

Matthew P. Murphy - Editor, WoodenBoat Magazine

Rowdy is a finely crafted book about a finely built yacht. It’s a narrative of war, competition, decline, and rejuvenation—and at the center of it all, a sublimely beautiful boat.”

Halsey Herreshoff - Naval Architect, America’s Cup Sailor, US Navy Lieutenant, founder America’s Cup Hall of Fame at the Herreshoff Marine Museum 

“The ROWDY story, so well and thoroughly presented, is both instructional and inspirational…. It is a fine read!”

Claudia Jew  - The Mariners' Museum 

“The reader easily becomes immersed in this incredible and adventurous story and is driven to keep turning the pages.”

Rob Peake, Editor, Classic Boat

“The elegant coffee table book, abounding with vintage photographs and illustrations, brings to life one of the most glamorous eras in the history of yachting. An enriching read and a visual delight!”

Professor David Stevenson  - Internationally renowned First World War Historian and author 

Rowdy provides a fascinating step back in time and into the colorful life of Holland Sackett Duell…. A very informative and enjoyable read.”

Lynne Crowley - Larchmont Historical Society  

“The numerous vintage photos are stunning, and the content, which overflows with historically significant material, also delivers an exciting and most enjoyable adventure and love story set in the 20s.”

Maynard Bray - Maritime Historian, prolific author

“It’s as much a social history of yachting and beyond as it is the story of Rowdy’s restoration. And a very good read, all-round.”

Ed Kane - Owner of the legendary 1949 Sparkman & Stephens designed 73-foot yawl Bolero 

“Complimented by an extensive collection of illustrations and vintage photographs, Rowdy is a fascinating and uniquely personal story that should be on every sailor’s (and non-sailor’s) bookshelf.”

John Rousmaniere - Author, In a Class by Herself and The Annapolis Book of Seamanship

Rowdy wonderfully represents not only one of the liveliest periods in the history of sailing, but also the fulfillment that comes with the challenging, caring project of restoring something precious to its original state.”



  • National Indie Excellence Awards; Historical Biography – WINNER

  • Indie Reader Discovery Awards; Biography – WINNER

  • IBPA Ben Franklin Award, biography - SILVER MEDAL WINNER

  • Publishing Professionals Network – Certificate of Excellence (cover and interior)

  • AIA Clemens Medal; for “Outstanding Literary Quality, Book Design & Standard of Editing”

  • Non Fiction Book Awards; Biography – GOLD MEDAL WINNER

  • Reader Views Choice Award, Biography – FIRST PLACE

  • Feathered Quill Literary Award; Historical – FIRST PLACE

  • Feathered Quill Literary Award; Best Debut Author – Third Place

  • Beverly Hills Book Awards; Cover Design – WINNER

  • Beverly Hills Book Awards; Interior Design – WINNER

  • Beverly Hills Book Awards; Coffee Table Book – Award Winning Finalist

  • Readers’ Favorite International Book Award, Biography – SILVER MEDAL WINNER

  • International Book Awards; Biography – AWARD WINNING FINALIST

  • Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Biography - AWARD WINNING FINALIST

  • Foreword INDIEFAB Book of the Year; Biography - AWARD WINNING FINALIST

  • Eric Hoffer da Vinci Eye (outstanding cover art) - AWARD WINNING FINALIST

  • Eric Hoffer Book Award; Reference - AWARD WINNING HONORABLE MENTION

  • San Francisco Book Festival; Biography - AWARD WINNING HONORABLE MENTION

  • New York Book Festival; Biography - AWARD WINNING HONORABLE MENTION




Midwest Book Review, by Diane Donovan, 1/14/2015

Midwest book review for Rowdy

 Reviewed by D. Donovan

Completed on:             1/14/2015

The title Rowdy perhaps implies a story of mayhem and parties - and in a strange way, you wouldn't be far off identifying this saga as a spirited account, even though 'Rowdy' does not identify a state of mind, but is the name of a sailboat author Christopher Madsen discovered in 1998.

At that point Rowdy was certainly not living up to her name: derelict, leaky, and neglected, the yacht and her former owner were largely a mystery – and, as author Christopher Madsen began rebuilding his new acquisition, so he became intrigued by her past and became determined to not just rebuild her, but also to solve all of her mysteries. The surprising course of this investigation traversed East and West coasts, involved exhaustive research, and ultimately drew the author as much into researching Duell and nautical history as into the physical act of restoring an old, once-grand boat. In fact, over sixteen years went into the making this story; and so Rowdy is not a quick nautical adventure so much as an in-depth and personal investigation, made all the more gripping by the fact that the story is completely true, historically significant and meticulous footnoted throughout.   

The book quickly transitions from Christopher’s restoration of the yacht and whisks the reader back in time to the 1920’s era of Hemmingway and Gatsby. It is in this setting that the dynamic story of the original owner, Holland Sackett Duell, seems to magically unfold and blossom back to life. The reader will share in the journeys and struggles of Holland Duell, decorated World War I major, celebrated New York state senator, powerful patent attorney, and highly accomplished sailor, as he is immersed in the Great War, politics at the highest level, the birth of Hollywood, fortunes and mansions, love and romance, and scandalous affairs. It is this rich and diverse content makes Rowdy a strong recommendation for sailors and non-sailors alike.

It should be noted that color and vintage, historical black and white photos and illustrations are liberally peppered throughout: something missing in many a nautical tale, and a feature which lends a visual touch to the story line.

Rowdy offers many unusual facets that set it apart from other nautical titles. Of course there is the nautical theme:

"To be honest, when I arrived at the marina and saw Rowdy, my first impression of her was so decidedly mixed that I would equate it to seeing a beautiful purebred dog that had been beaten, abused, neglected, and left to die in a pitiful state….while I know I glanced over all the flaws, my gaze was held by the clean design of her flush deck, with no built-up cabin, and her long, graceful sweeping shear. I could picture how easily and quickly her bow, with its immensely long overhang, must have sliced through the water in her heyday. Looking at her sleek yet sad appearance, I saw nothing but potential and the obvious signature of her master designer, Captain Nat Herreshoff."

A central theme which develops and steadily builds towards a given outcome at the end of the book centers on a secret love affair conceived on the 1918 battlefields of France:

In my absence, your family life would survive on its own, or it would fail on its own, and it’s probably best to let that course play out. I would still like to be a familiar presence, and we can certainly continue to share the happiness and friendship that we have brought to each other in that capacity. But at the same time, I think I would curl up and die and blow away like dust if I were denied one ounce of the intimacy and closeness that we shared last night. With that, the basic foundation of their clandestine relationship had been laid.”  

 Another faceted inclusion in the book, Holland Duell’s war journal, provides vivid, personalized descriptions of his experiences in the Great War, and is represented to be the most detailed accounting ever written on the 306th Field Artillery, 77th Division:

“The French citizens laughed and cried hysterically as they embraced their liberators. The French and American flags were hoisted, and a makeshift band played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “La Marseillaise.” To see those French men who, but a blink of the eye ago with all their worldly possessions upon their back, had impressed us as being the most pitiful, destitute, beaten-down souls in existence—to see them now infused with craziness and hilarity, running about madly, throwing their hats in the air and joyously shouting, “Fini la Guerre!” and “Vivent les Americains!” and “Vive l’Amerique!” was a sight to behold. Fini la Guerre indeed! So it was true. The war was finally over.”


But finally - and perhaps, most importantly - Rowdy is a history journal of a boat, its owner, and the process of tracking down a multifaceted story of her life and times: a process that immersed the author not only in the original owner's remarkable story; but also afforded him the most wonderful and special opportunity to meet and become friends with many of Holland Duell’s descendants. 

And so readers anticipating a singular story of a boat's restoration, or a yachting adventure, or even a new owner's discoveries about his impulsive purchase will find so much more here. The historical research and vintage history is simply extraordinary, making Rowdy an exceptional standout presentation that neatly moves far above and beyond the multitudes of books competing for similar shelf space.



Readers' Favorite review, by Maria Beltran, 1/8/2015

Readers’ Favorite book review for Rowdy

Reviewed by Maria Beltran

Completed on:            1/08/2015

Review Rating:           5 stars!

Christopher Madsen did not imagine that he would write a book but circumstances find him as the new owner of a sailboat that has seen glorious days and this will change his life in a way that he never imagined. Rowdy is the story of a sailboat juxtaposed with that of its original owner, Colonel Holland Sackett Duell, who fought in World War I as a major with the 306th Field Artillery, 77th Division, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal, the Croix de Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in combat.

A distinguished personality, Colonel Holland Sackett Duell married Mabel Halliwell, daughter to one of the richest men in New York. The opulent lifestyle they enjoyed in their 20,000 square foot mansion, Ardenwold, exploded in 1924 when it was revealed that for the past six years a secret love affair had been thriving between Holland and Mabel’s first cousin Emilie Brown. A week after his divorce Holland and Emilie married, and remained deeply in love until his death in 1942. A distinguished sailor, Holland Sackett Duell owned Rowdy for more than two decades. This is their story.

Rowdy by Christopher Madsen is a creative non-fiction story that started with the author acquiring a sailboat of the same name, originally owned by American lawyer, US Army officer and New York politician Holland Sackett Duell. This acquisition ignited a quest to find out everything about the 1916 NYYC yacht Rowdy and its previous owner. Well researched and very informative, this book is a work that spanned many years and it shows in the final product. Both subjects certainly have compelling stories to tell and it is interesting to note that in the author's process of rehabilitating Rowdy, Holland Sackett Duell seems to come back to life through this book as well. Thanks go to the author and the cooperation of Duell’s numerous relatives, especially his 93-year-old daughter Hanny, who, at the time of the book’s writing, was his only surviving child. This is a gem of a book!

Hardcover Details
  • 08/2015
  • 978-0-9960260-0-0
  • 480 pages
  • $55